One of the Berkman Center’s longest-running projects, Chilling Effects collects and studies online content removal requests, providing transparency and supporting analysis of the Web’s takedown “ecology,” in terms of who sends requests, why, and to what ends. Chilling Effects seeks to facilitate research about different kinds of complaints and requests for removal – legitimate and questionable – that are being sent to Internet publishers, platforms, and service providers and, ultimately, to educate the public about the dynamics of this aspect of online participatory culture.
Conceived and developed in 2002 by then-Berkman Center Fellow Wendy Seltzer, Chilling Effects was nurtured with help from law school clinics at Berkeley, Stanford, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, Santa Clara University School of Law, and Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic (based at the Berkman Center).
Initially focused on requests submitted under the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Chilling Effects now includes complaints of all varieties, including those concerning trademark, defamation, and privacy, both domestic and international. Currently, the Chilling Effects database contains millions of removal requests, and grows by more than 20,000 notices per week, from companies such as Google, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Reddit, Medium, Github, Vimeo, and Wordpress. Because of recent dramatic increases in notice volume, in 2014 the project upgraded to a more robust, scalable website that provides more granular data and API access for notice submitters and researchers.